Pages

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Junk Food Friday - A Tutorial

Sooooooo....with lots of snow everywhere, Dear Husband and I were craving fried chicken, crunchy slaw, and golden French fries. What to do? MAKE IT! I know what you are thinking - that is a lot of work, right? Well, not really. Time is a beautiful thing. First, I turned milk into buttermilk, by adding a tablespoon of lemon juice, and letting it sit for ten minutes. Then, I took our four, meaty drumsticks, and let them marinate in the mixture. Yes, that is hot sauce in there, too. Do not worry...there's not enough of it in there to be too spicy!
As with most empty-nesters...we do not eat a ton of food any longer...this is more than enough for the two of us! Then, it was time to cut potatoes into fries, and soak in some water that I added vinegar to...like so...
This step, as well as par-frying (you'll see in a bit) are key to making delicious and crispy fries. While they soaked, I took a harmless vegetable.....and cut a part of it to smithereens.....the BEFORE shot...

Sweet, crunchy cabbage...how I love thee. I wish thou loved my innards as much as I love your crunch. OK - enough of the ode to cabbage. Dice it up pretty well, and add carrot and green onion...

Then, add salt, pepper, sugar, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, and white and black sesame seeds....

Mix all together, and let the wonderful Asian-slaw flavors marry....

I loves me some crunch-tastic slaw! Then, get ye a large frying pan, and melt some shortening in it....high heat, and be careful, grease fires are no fun. Never fill a frying pan more than half full...when you put food in it...the oil level is going to rise! NOT rocket science...


Then, drain your potatoes which have been soaking all this time...and dry them thoroughly. Water and oil are not good buddies. Preheat your oven to about 210 - to keep the fries nice and toasty while you finish supper...dry them with lots of paper towels....
Then, begin to fry them in the hot oil...
Now...you know your oil is hot enough, when there is enough bubbling going on. Here's the semi-tricky part...pull those fries out after about TWO minutes...when they have just begun to get a little golden on the edges...like this..
And yes, you are going to finish frying them. Continue this par-frying with the rest of your fries. Why? Because when you use this method, the fries have a crispy exterior, and a soft and tasty interior! Another shot of a batch after it's first, short fry...

Draining on paper towels, and ready for the second fry. Fry them again, until crispy and browned, and place on a plate lined with paper towels, salt them, and put them in that warm oven.

Yum.....Now, let's turn our attention to the chicken. Get some flour...about a cup or so, and season with salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, etc.

Drain the chicken from the buttermilk in a colander

Coat it well in the flour mixture, and shake off the excess flour...

Lay them carefully in your hot oil. You do not have to deep-fry, to get fried chicken! Just do one side at a time, like this...

After about six minutes, turn them over and fry the other side. There may be spattering going on, and I don't know about you, but I simply cannot stand a greasy kitchen. Go buy a spatter screen (under ten bucks)...and use it! Like this...

After you turn them to fry on the second side...this is what they will look like...crispy brown and delicious...

After they fry on the second side, an additional six minutes or so, pull them and drain on paper towels. Place in that warm oven, just for about five minutes or so. This step drains fat, and ensures a crispy exterior.


Now....your slaw is made, your fries are also done and keeping warm, and you have just saved at LEAST ten bucks! Is it worth it? You decide...

I feel that scratch-cooking is becoming a lost art, in a way. I feel that there are entire generations who think that the only way to get fried chicken, coleslaw and fries.....is to buy them. Was it work, in a way, to make this supper? Yes. I must say, however, that because I do not use mayonnaise in my slaw, and because I know every...single...ingredient that went into my food, I feel like it is work of the most honorable and rewarding kind! 

I guess that is the point of this post. Some may view cooking as work. I view cooking as an art form. Once again, I'm brought back to the quote I read many years ago..."Cooking is the only art form which affects people at the cellular level". I don't quite remember who said that, but I do remember the profound effect it had on my thinking. I change people, by what I put into their bodies! Never forget that precious assignment! Never forget that preservatives and chemicals lodge in our major organs, and eventually become tumors, or other abnormalities. Never.....ever...forget.

Eat well, my friends...and nourish more than your soul with your food. Love and kindness to all,

                                                                             Pixie

Friday, January 28, 2011

Curry Magic

Today I was craving something comforting, but spicy and tasty, too. I'm in the fourth week and flavor of the cooking competition for the Real Women of Philadelphia contest, and it's beginning to take it's toll on me. At the risk of sounding like a whiner, moving into a new home, job-searching, blogging and recipe developing and testing and then filming, my energy levels are being seriously tested indeed. In fact, sometimes, when Dear Husband asks what we're having for supper, I want to say "RESERVATIONS"! HAHAHA...OK....clearly I need some rest.

Anyhoo, when I looked in the fridge for leftovers to turn into something special, all I could find that had potential....was this..

Leftover baked potato, the rest of the bag of frozen cauliflower, and an onion from the Pixie-Pantry. Oh! Wait a minute! I also had this!
Leftover Basmati rice, from last nights' stir fry. An idea was beginning to hatch in my tired, media-addled brain...curry!  I raided the spice cabinet and look what I found!

We are SOOOO in business! First, saute' a little wedge of onion in some butter, and plain vegetable oil until soft and tender..



Then, cube the leftover cold baked potatoes (peeled) and add and saute until crispy on the edges, and warmed through.


Then, add a chunk of the curry paste, some curry powder, the cauliflower, some cayenne pepper and some cilantro. Here it is before mixing and adding the liquid ingredients...

Finish the dish by adding a small can of coconut milk, and a little water.Bring up the heat until all are warm throughout, and the sauce has thickened around the vegetables a little. You want a nice sauce to go over that lovely and fragrant Basmati rice. I garnished with a little chopped pickled jalapeno. The results?

Honestly....oh....my.....goodness. Think about this for a minute. The rice and potatoes were leftover in the fridge. The rest of the bag of frozen cauliflower was dying to be used up. The spices and coconut milk were in the Pixie-Pantry, and well...quite frankly, this is a gourmet Indian lunch that probably cost one dollar!  The flavors were spot-on authentic, the coconut milk mellowed the spices a bit..and, well..I must say, just delicious!

What exotic treat do you make yourself because you cannot resist it?

What did Kitchen Angel think?  You know, I'm not so sure....last I saw her, she was mumbling something about "blasted snow", and "Ft. Lauderdale"!


I think that's a visor, and beach towel!

Oh well, if I cannot be somewhere warm, I can have a warm, authentic, and delicious curry for lunch, without breaking the bank, or even leaving the house!

Eat well, my friends......and until next post, Love and Kindness to all...................

Pixie

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Happy Anniversary - to ME!

Today is the one year anniversary of this blog! It has been a strange and exciting journey, to say the least. I have learned a lot about photographing food, and timing it for optimal photogenic freshness, about what people like to learn to cook, and about myself.  I also learned that looking back to when we were in Alaska, and realizing that some of the hardships of that time - helped me give birth to this project, and so I'm grateful.

To celebrate, and because I'm on a big Italian food kick right now, I wanted to try to make and experience gnocchi - that wonderful potato pillow-o-goodness that I hear Italian-Americans wax nostalgic about frequently. I may not be any one's Nonna, but I think with basic chef-a-licious skills, and the desire to achieve the tender pillows...it can be done.

First, I baked three large potatoes for nearly an hour in a hot oven, and when done and cooled enough, I grated on to my cutting board with the eggs, Parmesan, salt, pepper and nutmeg. This is what it looked like at that point...


I quickly sprinkled 1/2 a cup of flour over this mixture and worked it until it was incorporated. Then, an additional cup of flour was worked in to make a proper dough.  When done, I cut the dough into four pieces, more or less equal, like so...

Then, the recipe called for rolling the dough into four 1/2 in. diameter rolls, for cutting into gnocchi. I did not get out my ruler.....but I think this approximates the correct size.....



You then cut the dough into little half-inch chunks....to be rolled into the actual gnocchi...like this...

I coated the back of a fork with flour, and gently rolled each dumpling across the back of it, to create the signature marks that, in addition to telling us that they are gnocchi, help them to hold on to the sauce. When I had rolled all of them, I placed on a piece of parchment paper for a half hour rest in the fridge. This rest enables the dough to relax, and the gnocchi to dry up and prepare for being immersed in boiling water, without falling apart. This is what they look like on their way to the fridge.

Little pillows of tater-y goodness!

While they rested, I warmed up some leftover pasta sauce that I had used for my Italian Meatballs (I know...but that's another post).

Then, time to cook the gnocchi in some boiling, salted water....just until cooked through, and they have risen to the surface...this picture shows a batch in the middle of the cooking process, as you can see, some have popped up to the top and are ready to be scooped up with a slotted spoon.

I did not cook the entire batch - as that was a little TOO much for this particular Pixie...but...how was it? Let me count the ways that this dish was amazing! First, have a look at the final plating, with a little more Parmesan, salt, pepper, and a sprinkling of freshly chopped parsley and basil...


Those little potato-pillows-o-goodness were like nothing I ever tasted! An entirely different texture and mouth feel from pasta. An Italian adventure, for a year of photographing and tasting fun!

What do you do to commemorate something memorable? Does it involve a special dish?

I went to see what Kitchen Angel thought...as you know, I value her opinion......I looked in the normal place where she usually stands.....ready to laugh at me give valuable advice...and she was GONE!

I looked everywhere! Frantically! Kidnapped! Hurt! Where was she? As I looked around the house in vain.....something near the back deck caught my eye. In disbelief I looked on......and still could not believe what I saw........................

That's right...borrowed the corn cob holder...and was sledding in the back yard! Girls just want to have fun, indeed! The nerve.......

Anyway, that's the moral of this story....one year into the blogoshpere - I want to have fun, show you a bit of my world and what it means to me. Eat well, my friends, and stay tuned for another year of adventures in Pixie land! Love and kindness to all...................

Pixie

Friday, January 21, 2011

Frugal Gal Friday

What happens when a couple loses an entire income? Well, belts must be tightened, creativity must flow, and one needs to make do, and sometimes do without, to beat the shortage, and still enjoy life.  I'm in the mood for a rich, satisfying and hearty lunch today, and the cold and snow only make that craving stronger. So, what did I find in the newly-cleaned refrigerator today?  Well, these items......

Along with the rest of a can of tomato paste, and some leftover orzo from last nights' supper. What should a thrifty, but hungry lady do? STUFF THAT BAD BOY! Yep....time to get my thinking cap on.  So - I put the ground beef in the bowl with some freshly grated Parmesan, the leftover orzo, salt, pepper, dried oregano, fresh chopped parsley and freshly chopped rosemary. This is what it looked like before mixing.

I took this...........

And mixed it with water, salt, pepper, a pressed clove of garlic and some of the same Italian seasonings I used in the mixture, to make a sauce for both the stuffing and to top the pepper. Here's what it looked like after I added water, and the seasonings....

I spooned a little of the sauce into the meat and orzo mixture, and then stuffed the pepper with it.

Then, into a bowl with a little olive oil for baking, and top with the sauce mixture. Like so.....


And, clearly....a little more freshly grated Parmesan cheese is not going to hurt one tiny bit! Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for forty five minutes. The results?

Can I tell you how richly rewarded I was? The lovely Italian flavor, the sauce, meat and orzo combined in the most delightful way, and the pepper was tender but not mushy.  Are you ready for the close-up?

When you pair a desire to live simply, with some wizard cooking skills, you get a treat like this. And yes, that is my good china and a lovely green place mat that I used.....just for me.....just for lunch. Why? Because! Because life is too short to only use the "good" dishes once every blue moon! Because who invented the rule that we have to punish ourselves and not truly enjoy beauty, creativity and taste at EVERY meal?

Ok, philosophical moment over. What did Kitchen Angel think? Well, I must have put her in the mood for Italian food, because when I looked up from my delicious lunch, she was tearing off with some of my garlic and parsley!  Strange gal......




Eat well my friends, and stay tuned for my next Italian adventure - potato gnocchi....from scratch!! To celebrate the one year anniversary of the blog, of course!   Now, where did that Angel go with my stuff?  Love and kindness to all,

                                                               Pixie

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Frankly my Dear......

I cannot help it. When I get a craving for a certain taste, an excellent taste that I've had before, I must make it. Such is the case with my favorite Vegetable Frankie. Go here for the recipe that I use, and prepare to have an Indian feast-o-goodness! However, when I opened my carefully trimmed and refrigerated green beans, they had "gone over to the dark side". No problem, I quickly blanched some fresh broccoli for two minutes in some boiling, salted water.

I then gathered and prepped all of my ingredients for the Frankie....don't be daunted, this is the hardest part of the whole recipe! I promise!
If you have all your ingredients ready, by the time you are actively putting this dish together, it's a snap. No pun intended....my snap beans were goners, remember? Oh, and I did not have any peas, either. This is not an issue, because any good mix of vegetables works just great in this recipe.  Then, time to cube and roast the squash for the Frankie filling...

Lightly tossed with vegetable oil, salt and pepper. Then, you "toast" cumin in some oil...simply put, you heat oil and cook the spice for a few minutes...like so..

When this has cooked for a few minutes, you add your thinly sliced onion, and begin to slowly caramelize..for about five minutes...


When they are nicely light-brown, and beginning to really get tender, add your garlic, ginger, and turmeric. Be careful with that turmeric! Anything it touches WILL be yellow..to include your clothes (and yes, that is the voice of experience talking)....anyhoo....

You also add salt and pepper, and saute for about 3 minutes, or until the garlic and ginger have mellowed a tad....This is where I differ slightly from the recipe. I combine all the squash, onion mixture and blanched broccoli along with some pickled jalapeno into a bowl and place in the turned-off oven to keep warm. This is what the mixture looks like.....


I also sprinkle the mixture with the chat masala before placing in the oven...so it can absorb the flavors while I am preparing the tortilla. To do just that, beat the egg with the cilantro in a small bowl until combined...


Then, dump that mixture on to a large dinner plate...you'll see why in a moment....
Then, carefully dip a tortilla into the mixture, and place dipped-side down, into your non-stick pan, on medium low heat and spread the top half with the remaining egg and cilantro mixture as the bottom cooks..

Flip carefully after a few minutes, when the bottom half has set - and don't worry if some of the egg mixture slides off, it'll rejoin the tortilla when you continue cooking the other side...

Give it another three to five minutes, and resist the temptation to crank the heat up...those eggs will cook and set within just a few minutes!  Then, place on to a large plate for filling with all the yummy ingredients...
Take your bowl of the vegetable mixture out of the oven, fill Frankie with it, and sprinkle with some chat masala (look at specialty Indian and Asian food stores), some fresh mint and cilantro, and this is what it should look like...

Roll the Frankie up, and garnish with more cilantro, and some thinly sliced red onion. This would be a good time to get some chutney for dipping, if you like. I was without today, but it was no great loss.....there is so much flavor and texture going on here! The FINAL FRANKIE FOTO? hahahah....

What can I say? It was simply delicious! Was it worth all of the prep and effort for a mid-morning delight? You bet! The vegetables retained a little texture and crunch, the spices, cilantro and mint were noticeable without being overpowering, and the jalapenos added just the right amount of zing. Oh, and since I know you have all been practicing clean-as-you-go...the only thing left when you are done is.....

That's right, neatly stowed in a plastic container for snacking on all day storage - I know you don't want a big mess to start your day. Really, I'm not kidding....a wider shot showing my cooking area after the fact...

It's not hard - you just have to make a concerted effort, and not walk away. Personally, as I cooked I put the ingredients away, and as I munched on the Frankie, I rinsed & loaded the dishwasher. That way, not only are you not sitting on your tush and gaining weight, you are serving the dual purposes of cleaning from your cooking, and burning calories. It was so tasty, I'm already dreaming of what I will put in it, the next time I make it!  What did Kitchen Angel think?
Oh she was just WAAAAAY too busy, checking out the newly-emerged basil seedlings. She (and I) cannot wait for Spring to be sprung!

What are you doing for seriously-early-Springtime?

Eat well, my friends, and enjoy creating something you love, even if it is just for you.  Love and kindness to all,

                                                                          Pixie